Eric Gay/PA

Mourners say goodbye to teacher killed in Uvalde shooting and her husband

Irma Garcia was killed in the shooting and her husband Joe died two days later from a heart attack.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 1st 2022, 7:30 PM

MOURNERS GATHERED AT a Catholic church in Texas today to say goodbye to Robb Elementary School teacher Irma Garcia, who died in the shooting at the Uvalde grade school, and her husband Joe who died two days later from a heart attack.

Nineteen children and two teachers — Garcia and her co-teacher, 44-year-old Eva Mireles — were killed on 24 May when an 18-year-old gunman burst into their classroom.

At Sacred Heart Catholic Church today, twin black hearses carrying the coffins of the Garcias arrived in a procession led by police and civilian motorcycle riders.

Covered by flowers, the caskets were borne by pallbearers past a phalanx of police in uniforms and priests in white robes.

Mourners, some crying and hugging, walked inside quietly.

Garcia, 48, was finishing up her 23rd year as a teacher at Robb Elementary.

In a letter posted on the school’s website at the beginning of the school year, she told her students that she and Joe had four children — a Marine, a college student, a high school student and a seventh grader.

Joe Garcia, who was aged 50, collapsed and died after dropping off flowers at his wife’s memorial. His obituary noted that he and his wife “began their relationship in high school and it flourished into a love that was beautiful and kind”.

They would have been married 25 years on 28 June.

Earlier today, hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old girl who was killed in the shooting.

Erika Santiago, her husband and their two children wore purple shirts adorned with images of the victims for Amerie’s funeral.

She described the youngster as a “nice little girl who smiled a lot” and was “so humble and charismatic but full of life”.

Santiago said her son Adriel, 10, watched in horror when news reports first showed images of people killed by 18-year-old Salvador Ramos and he recognised his friends Amerie and Maite.

“He told me he did not want to go to school fearing that could happen,” she said.

“He told me, ‘Mom, I just don’t feel safe.’”


Results of post-mortems

Uvalde County justice of the peace Eulalio “Lalo” Diaz Junior said the bodies of all 21 victims were first sent to the medical examiner’s office in San Antonio for post-mortem examinations, which he said is standard for a major crime.

Then, because there is not enough space at Uvalde’s two funeral homes, many bodies were sent to out-of-town funeral homes until services near.

The Uvalde funeral homes are working with the families on when they can see their loved ones, he said.

“It’s mainly because of the number of victims,” Diaz said, asking: “Where do you store that many people?”

Diaz said the post-mortems are complete. He declined to discuss preliminary results and said final reports will take three to four months.

Vincent Salazar said he and his family are going to as many visitations as they can to pay respects to the other victims and their families.

“Not necessarily going to the funerals because we’re still taking care of things hour by hour, day by day, here,” he said.

“We’ve got so much stuff going on with our own. You have to set everything up — obituaries, death certificates, funeral arrangements.

“That’s all we’re focused on right now — her, getting her back and being able to put her to rest,” he said of Layla. “That’s it.”

Police response

Investigators continue to seek answers about how police responded to the shooting, and the US department of justice is reviewing law enforcement actions.

The blame for a delay in killing gunman Ramos — even as parents outside begged police to rush in and panicked children called 911 from inside — was placed on the school district’s homegrown police chief, Pete Arredondo, after the director of state police said Arredondo made the “wrong decision” not to breach the classroom, believing Ramos was barricaded inside and children were not at risk.

embedded267224092 Police outside the church following the funeral service for Amerie Jo Garza PA PA

Steven McCraw, head of the Texas department of public safety, said on Friday that after following Ramos into Robb Elementary School, officers waited over an hour to breach the classroom.

The revelation raised new questions about whether lives were lost because officers did not act faster to stop the gunman, who was ultimately killed by Border Patrol tactical officers.

State police said yesterday that the teacher who at one point propped open an exterior door to the school had closed it before the gunman used it to get inside.

However, the door did not lock, police said.

Authorities originally said Ramos came in through the door she had propped open.

Instead, investigators said the teacher, who has not been identified, closed the propped-open door when she realised there was a gunman on campus and ran to get her phone and call 911, said Travis Considine, chief communications officer for the Texas department of public safety.

Investigators are looking into why the door did not lock.

embedded267132466 Dora Mendoza, centre right, a grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, is comforted by a woman at a memorial site in Uvalde .PA .PA

Jacob Albarado, an off-duty Border Patrol agent who rushed to the school with a shotgun borrowed from his barber, said yesterday it was chaotic when he arrived in search of his daughter and wife.

Both were physically unharmed in the attack, he said.

“To me, I believe everyone there was doing the best that they could given the circumstances,” he told NBC’s Today Show.

“I believe everyone there was doing everything in their power.”

Authorities said Ramos legally bought two guns not long before the school attack: an AR-style rifle on 17 May and a second rifle on 20 May.

He had just turned 18, permitting him to buy the weapons under federal law.

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